A Exhibition of a Hundred Paintings and Drawings

I seriously almost can’t believe it myself. This past month I hung just over a hundred paintings and drawings at our local church gallery. Its all work I’ve completed over the past couple of years, except for a couple of paintings from many years ago.

You can visit the Duluth Vineyard church, right here in Duluth, MN for a visit to see for yourself…or just check out the recent work link on this site to see a few of them.

It’s been a wonderful couple of years for me, artistically speaking. While it’s been a difficult season on so many other levels, artistically, I’ve been able to lean into some projects and disciplines that life before a global pandemic just didn’t leave room for. This work highlights lots of different kinds of risks, some new ways of expressing myself, and even a multi-month commission I completed.

I’d love to hear what you think. Peace!

Back in the studio!

I feel a little bit bad saying this, but the opportunities the pandemic and subsequent shutdown provided for me, along with, a year later, my first three-month sabbatical after twenty-four years of ministry, was a vey unique and wonderful opportunity. Altogether, it’s been a brutally difficult, and at the same time, an absolutely glorious period of creativity. I’ve found joy in every moment. I know it sounds crazy, but I’m serious. In the past couple of years, I’ve lost my father (due to covid), and many who I would’ve considered friends have distanced themselves from me. At the same time, I was afforded the opportunity to lean into artistic disciplines that have long gone ignored. And I’ve worked at adding new skills to the mix of my life. Through all of it, I’ve continued to grow, to explore new visions of creativity, and to find refreshment for my soul in ways that continue to bring me great joy.
These pieces of art represent of some of what I’ve been learning… There are landscape painting of places I dearly love. Objects that highlight the beauty of the ongoing work of our hands. Words and prayers that are continually on our lips. People who radiate the image of our creator. And ancient scriptures that represent the life we’re invited into, passages that point us toward the love we dearly long for.
This artwork, as I’ve put it on display, is presented in a way that highlights its fragility… honestly, it’s really only marks I’ve made on paper. The paper and the writing or painting is not incredibly permanent. Although I’ve used the best of materials—one-hundred percent cotton paper and light-fast pigments—its still incredibly fragile… just like us. While we might not often take time to consider our own physical impermanence on this planet, it’s still a reality. Each of the materials used has another story to tell, from unique writing instruments to the brushes, the different kinds of paper, and even the leather and two-hundred year-old wood used to hang each piece… just like you and I, each element has it’s own story that’s worth hearing of how it ended up here. To view these up-close and personally, visit the gallery at the Vineyard Church of Duluth, Minnesota sometime this summer. https://duluthvineyard.org/creative-arts-ministry/
Come Holy Spirit #3
Expressive Calligraphy with Walnut Ink on Cold-Pressed Strathmore paper
This represents that way this ancient prayer is never far from my lips, always a part of each breath I take. Whether I always realize it or not, my life in continually dependent  on the empowering presence of God. And I want this prayer to never get old, to never become merely rote repetition on my lips.
Psalm One
Expressive Calligraphy with Walnut Ink on Hot-Pressed Strathmore paper
The first of the psalms paints a word picture of the kind of life we’re invited into… a life deeply dependent on the one who created us. Creativity, joy and lasting fruitfulness are the result of experiencing daily delight in the wisdom of the one who made us. I wrote out this psalm by hand almost daily over several months while working on a commissioned watercolor which represented this scene. As I read, and as I wrote this out day ofter day, over and over again, I asked God for this delight over his way of life to continue to grow in my own soul, that my life would resemble the tree in this psalm.
A Stack of Books #2
Watercolor on Cold-Pressed Strathmore paper
Over the course of my life I’ve discovered that my difficulty with letters and numbers was the result of dyslexia. And while over time I’ve learned many coping mechanisms, the difficulties with reading are never far away. (I regularly thank God for spell-check). Throughout my life I’ve also discovered the incredible beauty and joy of books! There is so much I don’t know…so much to learn and experience and think about. And even the books themselves are beautiful works of art. The art of book binding is amazing beautiful. The objects themselves are treasures where I experience the joy of God’s creativity in my soul. (And, sometime over a drink, ask me the story of applying for, and being denied a job at a college library!)
Duluth’s Canal Park from the Rose Garden
Watercolor on Rough Strathmore paper
This is one of many plein-air paintings from this location that I’ve completed over the past couple of years. There’s something very powerful for me about slowing down enough, while outside, to begin notice all of the details of a particular scene. When I look at a piece like this, I can hear still hear the noises, the conversations happening around me, and the people I met that day. I can smell all the smells and feel the sun or rain or wind I encountered. And I can immediately remember what God was saying to me as I worked to represent what I was seeing on that day.
A View of Wisconsin from Duluth’s Rose Garden
Watercolor on Rough Strathmore paper
On the same afternoon that I painted the a scene of Canal Park, I just rotated my easel about twenty-degrees and found myself looking across lake Superior toward Wisconsin. What a stunningly beautiful place we get to live in. We just look in a slightly different direction and a whole different scene presents itself. Not far from where I was sitting, a man who is currently housing-challenged was making and selling small wallets and coin bags from scraps of leather and fabric he’d found. Perhaps because he was a tad more friendly than I was on that day, he had many more conversations with passersby. Afterwards we had a lovely chat about the beauty of this place we both call home.
The Breath of God
Expressive Calligraphy with Sumi Ink on Waterford paper
I had recently been studying how God revealed himself to Moses in the book of Exodus, and the personal name of God… יהוה, (yhwh). Scholars have suggest that this could be the sound of an inhale and an exhale. In this piece I was visually playing with the idea of God’s name, of an extended inhale and an extended exhale. I wanted to visually represent the experience of being close enough to not only hear, but to feel, to experience God’s breath in a tangible way.
The House My Father Grew Up In
Watercolor on Hot-Pressed Strathmore 5-Ply Bristol Board
My father transitioned to be with God on December 24, 2021. He is the first of my parents to have died. I wasn’t able to be with him because of restriction around Covid. One of the way’s I’ve been able to interact and process my grief has been to paint and draw moments from his life, the places walked and the people he knew. This house In Tangent, Oregon is no longer standing, as least as I could see as I drove around the small town several times one afternoon last summer. I had visited this house several times as a kid, playing with my grandparents and more than a few uncles and aunts. Processing my grief in this way is extremely helpful as I relive and thank God for all the wonderful memories I have with my family.

Hanging a new show at the Vineyard

This past week I was able to curate and hang a show at the local church where I help to lead. We’d put out a call for work a couple months ago, asking artist we know to submit work they had created over the past couple of years. We were looking for work that was created during what has been a very difficult season for pretty much everyone — I think all of us have very personally felt the effects of this global pandemic.

And for many, if not most of us, one of the ways we’ve coped, one of the ways we’ve connected to one another, one of the ways we’ve continued to worship God… is through our creative and artistic pursuits.

So we asked folks to show us what they’ve been working on. Help us put together a show, a collection of work that highlights not only what we’ve been creating, but also shows us how we, as artists, have been connecting with God and others, how we’ve been pursuing health and healing through creating beauty, how we’ve spent our time, often alone and in the studio.

I’d initially planned to curate the show, to pick and choose from what was submitted to create a specific experience for the viewer. But as I laid out the individual pieces to take a first look, I was amazed at how well everything looked and worked together. I was stunned at the personal beauty of each piece. The various contrasts between what was being represented, each personal point of view, the wide difference of experience and technical expertise of each artist — I found myself becoming quite emotional as I was pondering what to include and what to potentially leave out.

I decided to leave everything that was submitted in the show. Altogether it perfectly represents how these specific artists in this specific community experienced the past couple of years. Many of them wrote a little something to go along with their artwork, a bit of explanation, if you will, of what they have been learning or thinking along the way.

If you have time this summer, I’d encourage you to check it out! https://duluthvineyard.org/creative-arts-ministry/

Back from hiatus!

It’s been a few years since I’ve posted anything on this site. My life has been busy with many other projects over the past few years. Nevertheless, once again, I intend to communicate, through art and creativity and words, what I continue to enjoy about art and love and beauty. 

As I write this, I am finishing up a three-month sabbatical from all of my paid jobs. I’m so thankful for the gift of an extended sabbatical which was given to me by our local church community, the Duluth Vineyard, and by our national leadership team at VineyardUSA. The women and men I have the privilege of working alongside are people I continue to look up to, and learn from every step of the way. I’m honored to follow their example, and incredibly thankful for this season of sabbatical.

One of the invitations I believe God invited me into during this season, if I heard correctly, was to spend time painting and/or drawing everyday throughout my time away. I distinctly remembered how, when making art was my full-time career, I would spend long days alone, talking with God about every part of my life, as I was in the process of creating. I would talk freely about my struggles or frustrations, I’d ask questions about how to resolve creative and business and relational issues, and I drift into time of worship at the gratuitous beauty of the natural world around me. In fact, as one of my spiritual directors pointed out, those times of communion with God while making art seemed to be crucial moments of clarity and direction, key pivot points of my life that I remember clearly even today.

As I began to weigh this invitation to paint everyday, I longingly looked forward to the quite and contemplative nature of painting everyday over a period of ninety plus days; looking forward to slower pace this would require, and the joy I’d experience at seeing and experiencing and interacting with God’s love in an unhurried way. So I made a tentative commitment to slow down, to notice something beautiful each day, and begin to warm up my pencils and brushes.

One of the very first days I remembered this song from years ago written by an acquaintance called, Little Things…

Seems as though our lives are changing
They’re growing faster every day
As the pace of life grows stronger
It’s the little things I let go astray

But all the little things tell me of his greatness
All the little things reveal his love to me
All the little things show me his compassion
And I know the Lord loves me

Just today he said he loved me
As I watched the rain turn into snow
Every snowflake tells a story
They’re saying God is in control

Though consider now the sparrow
The Father feeds her everyday
He has told her that he loves her
But he loves me in a greater way

And I know the Lord loves me
I know the Lord loves me

Little Things, A Quiet Encounter

As I have spent the past few weeks drawing and painting, as I make art and reflect on the amazing beauty of the “little things” all around me, I’m continually drawn to trust and to rely on his love and provision in every single area of my life.

Here are a few of the pieces hanging  in my studio presently…

Memorizing the curves of their faces…


One of my favorite things to look and admire at for the last twenty plus years has been my children. But getting them to hold still long enough to do a drawing is quite another matter altogether. Even still I was able to capture a few moments along the way.




When our second one came along, our daughter, it was amazing to watch our firstborn, tough little man that he was, come alongside her and begin to care for, protect and entertain her. I caught them sitting in a bentwood rocker together several times. We had bought that already worn out chair for five bucks at a garage sale and it turned out to be the perfect backdrop for these two little ones.


In this drawing she’s just a few months old. And he looks like the perfect big brother as they watched Jungle Book for the hundredth time! By the time I got around to painting them I’m pretty sure they were on to the Little Mermaid or something. But it held their attention just long enough to get some work done. And the rocker is a bit more frayed, but still serving as a decent backdrop.


As they continued to grow I caught them in all sorts of different poses, different activities and even different frames of mind. But is was always a treat to study and memorize every little part of their faces, their smiles, frowns, ears and eyes.


One day my youngest son propped his chin up on the stair railing leading to my studio. And he just stayed there for more than a few moments watch me paint. I slid the painting I had been working on over to the side, got a new piece of paper out and began drawing that wonderfully curious face.



But it’s not just the kids faces I like to memorize. This painting of Brenda was done from memory about 6 months into our marriage while she was at work one day. I needed a break from the commissioned piece I was working on and, so I did a painting of the love of my life.

For obvious reasons, these are still some of my favorites!

The Northern Minnesota BWCA

A few years ago I took a week-long canoe trip to the BWCA, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, in northern Minnesota. It was a chance to retreat, find some great peace and quiet, enjoy to great outdoors, and hopefully do a little watercolor painting. And while I did get to produce a great many smaller drawings and paintings, this particular painting has long been one of my favorites.

BWCAIt was near the end of the day and the sun was getting low in the sky. And when this happens the colors, the light just seems to keep getting warmer and richer. And this rich, warm light was reflecting beautifully off the rocks as we paddled by. And the water was not quite perfectly still, rather it sort of seemed like we were looking through an old poured-glass window that slightly distorted the scene being reflected into it. The entire scene was so stunning, so warm and inviting and peaceful that it was etched into my mind for years to come. Whenever I linger at the original watercolor which hangs in my studio, I revisit the calm peacefulness of that evening.

Over the years I did many paintings of this scene, capturing it from different points of view, because I just sort of memorized it as we paddled past that evening. In fact I probably just stopped paddling as we drifted past…thinking, reflecting, praying, absorbing, memorizing. And as I’ve remembered that scene, the evening calm as we slowly made our way to a campsite, the richness of life—as I’ve remembered and re painted that scene over the years, I’ve constantly come back to this verse from the great Hebrew prophet Isaiah:

“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength” (Isaiah 30.15).

IMG_1169For me, this scene has become a reminder of the way our heavenly Father offers his salvation and strength to us. In this verse there are four words describing what we do and to words describing what he provides. And there is so much contained in these words: repentance, rest, quietness and trust. I experience each of them in this painting. Here’s one way to think about it. Picture each of these words like individual paddle strokes, activities we do, to help us get more in touch with the one in whom real salvation and strength lives. These activities do not bring us salvation and strength, but they put us in a place where we can finally receive what our Father offers. And what he offers is so well worth the paddling, so well worth the effort.

In this scene I’m resting in the place of being able to receive what he offers, what my soul has always longed for. This painting is one of my reminders that repentance, rest, quietness and trust, is a very good place to be.

This print, just like the rest of them, is available if you’d like one!

Painting at a Worship Conference

I had a great time today, painting during a worship conference at the Vineyard church here in Duluth, Minnesota. Here’s how it happened.

It was just a regular worship conference. You know, a couple of days together with a larger part of the church, great biblical teaching about God, absolutely great musicians, lots of prayer time, both alone and in praying for others, lots of conversations with friends, tons of good stuff.

And off in a back corner of the auditorium there is a table with all sorts of brushes, acrylic paint, some pastels…and the thing that really did it to me, a selection of smaller stretched canvases. As I innocently walked on by those stinkers just called out to me. The pull was tangible–sort of gravitational, if you will. Wow. That was Friday night.

And then on Saturday morning my previous plans didn’t work out. So there I was. Feeling the pull of the canvas, blank and crying out for something, lonely and inviting my pencil to begin drawing. And dang it if I didn’t just jump right on in.

I wanted to focus on the line where the horizon of the land meets the sky. That line is where all the action is. It’s just like my life. The line where the sinfulness of humanity meets the holiness of God as a result of his grace. This line is where all the action lies, the color, the contrast, the beauty.

Hope you like it!


A Graceful Old Tree

A few weeks ago, as winter was winding its way down (or so we thought) in Minnesota, I found myself sitting outside in Scottsdale, Arizona, in the warm sunshine with a couple of days to refocus at a Franciscan retreat center.

And so, with the sun shining through the towering overhead palm trees I sat down next to a gnarly old olive tree. I loved the way this tree looked from every angle. The way its trunk crawled up out of the ground and headed off in so many different directions. The way it was anchored to the earth by hundreds of woody fingers gripping so tightly. The way it had been in this place since before the Franciscans had purchased the property, or so I imagined.IMG_1091

The first day as I began to draw I focused on mostly just the oldness and gnarlyness of the tree. To me it looked and felt tough. It was strong, but oh so weathered. It was tough. It was prickly. It had wrestled whatever life it could, during it’s long and dry years in this unforgiving climate, through the hard and difficult work of being a tree. I admired its long and difficult life.

The second day I sat in a different place and began another drawing. And this day it felt completely different to me. There was a gentle breeze and the sun didn’t fee quite so scorching on my head as I began to draw.

And not too far from me was another retreatant, a lady who had been coming to this retreat center for a number of years. She saw me drawing and began to strike up a conversation. I was so impressed with her graceful curiosity of what I was doing. Of how my quite time that morning communing with my heavenly Father involved drawing and praying—talking with God about what he’d so loving and perfectly created, myself, this tree and the kind lady asking me questions.

After awhile, as she got up to walk away, I noticed how her legs could barely carry her. How she had to walk so slowly because of whatever she had suffered throughout her long life. I noticed how much she was like the tree I was drawing—somewhat gnarly. And I also noticed how incredible full of grace—graceful she was.

IMG_1092Both this lady with her wobbly legs and this old olive tree were deeply graceful. Neither still possessed the grace of a young shoot, a young woman, rather a deep, deep grace that almost defies description. A grace that put others at complete peace in their presence. A grace that doesn’t hesitate to meet other’s needs. A grace that seldom makes itself the focus. A grace the reflects the creator because of all the years and experience that helped to shape it. A deeply imbedded grace.




The Minnesota Museum of Art

A few years ago. Quite a few to be exact. The Minnesota Museum of Art purchased one of my paintings. That was quite an experience for me. Why is that, Michael? I’m so glad you asked.

IMG_0969For years and years I had visited museums and loved every minute of it. I loved the large open rooms, the huge expanses of white walls and the uninterrupted time to study all the various kinds of art. I found it absolutely fascinating.

And I love the artwork. Everything from the solid colored 1960’s canvases to the ornate ancient Chinese body jewelry. It was wonderful. The creativity and craftsmanship was spectacular. But I especially love the marble sculpture, the paintings and the drawings. I would sometimes sit for hours in front on one painting, studying every line and shade and color and stroke. And I would often bring a sketchbook to jot down what I was learning.

At one point, while living in Chicago, I got special permission to bring my easel into the museum to spend a day copying a painting I especially admired. I had read that artists throughout the centuries learned in this way. And I just wanted to learn. The painting I was working from was painted by a fellow called John Singer Sargent. And needless to say, his was much better than any of my three attempts. But I did learn something.

There was one thing I didn’t appreciate, the museum tour guides. As I would be sitting for one place for some time, tour groups would pass through with one guide after another explaining all the things they thought the artist was thinking while working on the work being studied. It seemed to me, as someone who painted every day at that time, that most of what they were attributing to the artist’s thought life just wasn’t reality. But I digress, this is a whole different subject.

Back to the Minnesota Museum of Art. When I walked in that day to see my painting hanging on a wall next to others that I had long admired. Well, it took my breath away. Seriously. I had to sit down and a security guard came quickly over to see if everything was alright. I assured him I was healthy and went back to trying to find any unclaimed oxygen. I just sat there for a while and tears ran down my cheeks. I was thanking God for the ability and joy of recreating his creation on little sheets of paper.

IMG_0971Here is one of the original drawings that led up to the painting. I sometimes get asked if the work I’m creating exists out there in the real world, or is it all made up in my head—and the answer is yes! You can see the various elements in the original drawing, but they are rearranged or changed in the painting. In this way the artist can communicate and create a workable composition.

Anyway, that’s the thought for today. I have recently enjoyed paging through some older sketchbooks and reflecting. Enjoy winter!

The Pilot House – A New Print is Available

Pilot House - Pencil

Here’s a print of a pencil drawing I did a few years ago. The cabin is called “The Pilot House” and it on the shore of Burntside Lake just outside of Ely, Minnesota. It is a very beautiful and large lake, a great place to set up the watercolor easel and spend a few days being creative. I taught watercolor workshops up there over a few summers and grew to love the landscape. The camp where this cabin is located is called “Camp Du Nord” and is owned by the YMCA. If you’re ever looking for a place to get away from it all, this just might be a good choice.

And that cabin, well it is a special place. I don’t remember all the specifics. I think the cabin was originally built in the 1920’s or 30’s. Left over from the old days on the screened in porch which hangs over the lake there is a trap door built in to the floor to retrieve water from the lake. Now days the cabin has real plumbing so the trap door doesn’t get used as much…or does it?


Brenda and I stayed here for a week while we were celebrating our fifth anniversary. We cooked and hiked and kept the fireplace burning and played lots of cribbage. There were no phones, no cell service or wifi, no one to interrupt the peacefulness of that slow week.

Anyway, when I look at this drawing I can still smell the fire softly crackling, the food cooking away. I can feel the crisp fall breeze and even see brilliant colors of the leaves. I can hear the waves gently lapping the shore and the birds singing overhead.

Drawing are kind of like that. I can shoot hundreds of photos, especially now that I don’t have to pay to get all that film developed. But as I look through all the photos I’ve shot I can hardly remember why I thought I needed that image. Perhaps you’ve had that experience as well. But with a drawing it is completely different.

As I comb through my sketchbooks and see all the drawing I’ve done over the years, I can still hear the sounds and smell the smells I experienced while making that sketch. It’s amazing to me. But there is something that gets triggered in our minds as we take the time to really interact with the landscape or person we find ourselves with.

Perhaps there a lesson in that for us, whether we like to draw or not. Perhaps we could remember the experiences in our lives a bit more, and enjoy the people in our lives a bit more if we just took the time to listen and look and study their faces and enjoy their smiles.

If you’re interested in a copy of this print, I still have a few available. Just head on over the the “Other Prints” page and get yourself on of these. I doubt you’ll be disappointed!